Our 2nd day in Kyoto began bright and early at 6.45am, when we woke up for an onsen bath before breakfast. After a short onsen bath, we headed for breakfast at 7.30am at the same restaurant as the previous night.
The ryokan arranged for a free shuttle bus to drop us off at the nearby Ogotoonsen station, where we then caught the local train back to Kyoto.
From Kyoto station, we transferred to the subway line and alighted at Shijo station. We managed to find our hotel (Mitsui Garden Kyoto Shijo) without much trouble, and deposited our heavy luggages there as we were not able to check in yet.
We took the subway to Inari, which was quite close by, and we alighted together with a horde of tourists. It was so crowded that it took us nearly 5min to get from the platform to the fare gates!
The famous Fushimi Inari shrine can be found right outside the Inari station, and is really very convenient to visit.
We spent the next hour or so walking around Fushimi Inari, taking many pictures at the same time of course. Do note that it is an uphill climb as the shrine covers the Inari hillside, so bring proper footwear, or it will be really uncomfortable.
The forest was really beautiful, and had an air of serenity about it. It does get quieter as you climb further up, as most people turn back after a while.
Unfortunately we did not have much time, and only made it halfway up the mountain. Next time I guess! This last photo was taken near the entrance of the Inari shrine, and I really love the colours in this. 🙂
We headed back to Kyoto station around 12 noon as we were getting hungry. The main station is huge, and had the feel of a large shopping mall rather than that of a train station. I’m no architect or designer, but I thought that it was really impressive, and gave off a very spacious and welcoming vibe.
We walked around the huge station and chanced upon the ramen street (an entire floor of ramen restaurants) on the 11th floor (I think). Just look at the never-ending line of escalators.
We decided to have lunch at Ikkoushou in the end. I had tried it previously back in Singapore, and found it rather average. However, I am glad that I gave it another go, as it was really lip-smacking good here. 4 slices of tender pork, a really nicely done onsen egg, together with some yummy broth; all for just 1,050¥ (S$12.20)! 😀
We then took the local train to Arashiyama, which was about 10min away from Kyoto station. We immediately headed to the Tarokko Arashiyama station, which was just beside the Arashiyama station, in order to buy tickets for the scenic train.
Round trip tickets from Saga Torokko station and Kameoka Torokko station cost 1,240¥ (S$14.40).
Train timings for the trains departing from Saga Torokko can be found in the upper table of the picture below. The scenic train runs once per hour, so if you miss it, you’ll have to wait another hour. Do note also that the tickets you buy are tagged to a certain time slot, so be sure not to miss the train!
The platform is rather small, and it does get rather crowded when queues for the carriages start forming.
The carriages are quite small, and the seats also feel very cramped, so it was not really a very comfortable ride in my opinion. However, we did get some good views so I guess it kinda evened it out.
There are buses that ply the route between Kameoka station and the boat pier for Hozugawa River Cruises. The boat in the picture below is one of the boats that ferry passengers back up the river to Arashiyama. A ticket for the boat cruise costs 4,100¥ (S$47.70), and it would be wise to check the timings before heading down. We did not take the boat cruise on this trip, but might try it if we visit in the future!
L’s TIP: Avoid the last few seats (seats 13 to 16 probably) in each car. This is because these seats do not have windows that can be opened (i.e. just glass, so it’s really bad for photos because you can see the reflection.) Also, my personal opinion is that there is more scenery on the right side of the train (heading toward Tarokko) so you may want to request for a seat with a window & on the right side of the train. That’s if you can speak Japanese or somehow communicate really well in sign language.
Personally though I felt that the ride was a bit disappointing overall because there were a lot of tunnels along the route.
On the return journey, we stopped at Arashiyama Torokko (one station before Saga Torokko), since we were intending to make our way to the Arashiyama bamboo grove and the Togetsukyo bridge later on.
I had high expectations of the bamboo grove before we went, but I personally felt that it was rather underwhelming, and the grove itself was rather small. It was also very crowded, and any sort of tranquility one might have felt was destroyed. We did take a few pictures before heading toward the bridge.
We passed through a small town on our way to the Togetsukyo bridge, and bought an azuki dango to try. I did not really like the taste of it though, and felt that it was very flour-ish and thick.
We also tried wagetsu(?), a biscuit with cream sugar filling, which was very sweet. Worth a try, but really nothing special.
We took some pictures at the bridge, which by itself was nothing special. However with the backdrop of the mountain and the rushing river underneath it, it made for a pretty photo-opportunity! 🙂
It was really pretty from the bridge itself too, so here’s another photo with the setting sun!
We stopped by to rest our tired feet at Togetsu cafe, which is on the other side of the bridge.
The matcha latte (500¥/S$5.80) & hot chocolate were really superb, with the strong matcha flavor and sweet chocolate flavor coming out really well.
We stayed till the sun had completely set (no real sunset as it was cloudy, again), and ventured out hoping to see the light up of the bridge. What we saw was pretty disappointing though, as the bridge was nowhere as pretty as it looked in photos.
We took a bus back to our hotel to check-in and freshen up before heading out for dinner. We caught a bus from a bus stop near our hotel to the Gion district, and alighted at the Yasaka shrine bus stop.
The Gion district (in particular the Hanamikoji street) was really pretty at night, with the lit lanterns swaying outside the tea houses and restaurants. It was a truly nostalgic moment, and we were teleported back in time to Kyoto’s past. Sadly though, we failed to spot any geishas there that night.
We headed toward Pontocho alley, which was a short hop across the bridge from Gion. The restaurants there are pretty expensive, thus we did not eat there. We did have a fun time soaking in the atmosphere as we strolled along the alley though.
We were getting hungry at that point, and decided to walk back toward our hotel (along Shijo-dori, kind of Kyoto’s Orchard Road), and find some food along the way.
We ended up at a small restaurant (Sukiya) that seemed very popular with Japanese salarymen. The food served was tasty and in substantial portions, yet very affordably-priced! My beef set meal was only 500¥ (S$5.80).
After a satisfying dinner, we took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel to digest our meal. Our reason for doing so? Well, we wanted to take a bath at the hotel’s public baths before turning in!
The hotel’s baths are gender-separated, so we split up at the entrance to the baths. The men’s bath consisted of a small locker room, where one can lock up their personal belongings (usually for free).
There was only an indoor bath, and it was not very impressive compared to the previous day’s bath at the ryokan. It was still a decent bath (I think it had no special properties though), and I had a good soak for about 10-15min. It was really relaxing to have a hot soak before sleeping!
Summary of Day 2:
– Fushimi Inari
– Arashiyama (scenic rail, bridge & bamboo grove)